Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2019, Vol. 11 Issue (4): 551-566    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-019-0059-9
Determining the spatial distribution of soil properties using the environmental covariates and multivariate statistical analysis: a case study in semi-arid regions of Iran
ZERAATPISHEH Mojtaba1,2,3,*(), AYOUBI Shamsollah1, SULIEMAN Magboul4, RODRIGO-COMINO Jesús5
1 Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan 84156-83111, Iran
2 Key Laboratory of Geospatial Technology for the Middle and Lower Yellow River Regions, College of Environment and Planning, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China
3 Department of Soil Science, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University of Khuzestan, Ahvaz 6341773637, Iran
4 Department of Soil and Environment Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Khartoum, Shambat 13314, Sudan
5 Instituto de Geomorfología y Suelos, Department of Geography, University of Málaga, Málaga 29071, Spain;
Download: HTML     PDF(2242KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


Natural soil-forming factors such as landforms, parent materials or biota lead to high variability in soil properties. However, there is not enough research quantifying which environmental factor(s) can be the most relevant to predicting soil properties at the catchment scale in semi-arid areas. Thus, this research aims to investigate the ability of multivariate statistical analyses to distinguish which soil properties follow a clear spatial pattern conditioned by specific environmental characteristics in a semi-arid region of Iran. To achieve this goal, we digitized parent materials and landforms by recent orthophotography. Also, we extracted ten topographical attributes and five remote sensing variables from a digital elevation model (DEM) and the Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM), respectively. These factors were contrasted for 334 soil samples (depth of 0-30 cm). Cluster analysis and soil maps reveal that Cluster 1 comprises of limestones, massive limestones and mixed deposits of conglomerates with low soil organic carbon (SOC) and clay contents, and Cluster 2 is composed of soils that originated from quaternary and early quaternary parent materials such as terraces, alluvial fans, lake deposits, and marls or conglomerates that register the highest SOC content and the lowest sand and silt contents. Further, it is confirmed that soils with the highest SOC and clay contents are located in wetlands, lagoons, alluvial fans and piedmonts, while soils with the lowest SOC and clay contents are located in dissected alluvial fans, eroded hills, rock outcrops and steep hills. The results of principal component analysis using the remote sensing data and topographical attributes identify five main components, which explain 73.3% of the total variability of soil properties. Environmental factors such as hillslope morphology and all of the remote sensing variables can largely explain SOC variability, but no significant correlation is found for soil texture and calcium carbonate equivalent contents. Therefore, we conclude that SOC can be considered as the best-predicted soil property in semi-arid regions.

Key wordssoil properties      remote sensing data      topographical attributes      multivariate statistical analyses      geographic information systems      land management     
Received: 10 March 2018      Published: 10 August 2019
Corresponding Authors:
About author:

The first and second authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article:

ZERAATPISHEH Mojtaba, AYOUBI Shamsollah, SULIEMAN Magboul, RODRIGO-COMINO Jesús. Determining the spatial distribution of soil properties using the environmental covariates and multivariate statistical analysis: a case study in semi-arid regions of Iran. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 551-566.

URL:     OR

[1] Alijani Z, Sarmadian F.2014. The role of topography in changing of soil carbonate content. Indian Journal Science Research, 6(1): 263-271.
[2] Amare T, Zegeye A D, Yitaferu B, et al.2014. Combined effect of soil bund with biological soil and water conservation measures in the northwestern Ethiopian highlands. Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology, 14(3): 192-199.
[3] Anderson D W.1988. The effect of parent material and soil development on nutrient cycling in temperate ecosystems. Biogeochemistry, 5(1): 71-97.
[4] Ayoubi S, Mokhtari J, Mosaddeghi M R, et al.2018. Erodibility of calcareous soils as influenced by land use and intrinsic soil properties in a semiarid region of central Iran. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 190(4): 192.
[5] Bouyoucos G J.1962. Hydrometer method improved for making particle size analyses of soils. Agronomy Journal, 54(5): 464-465.
[6] Bruand A, Tessier D.2000. Water retention properties of the clay in soils developed on clayey sediments: significance of parent material and soil history. European Journal of Soil Science, 51(4): 679-688.
[7] Castillo-Monroy A P, Maestre F T, Delgado-Baquerizo M, et al.2010. Biological soil crusts modulate nitrogen availability in semi-arid ecosystems: insights from a Mediterranean grassland. Plant and Soil, 333(1-2): 21-34.
[8] Cerdà A, Rodrigo-Comino J, Novara A, et al.2018. Long-term impact of rainfed agricultural land abandonment on soil erosion in the Western Mediterranean basin. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 42(2): 202-219.
[9] Conforti M, Lucà F, Scarciglia F, et al.2016. Soil carbon stock in relation to soil properties and landscape position in a forest ecosystem of southern Italy (Calabria region). Catena, 144: 23-33.
[10] Dwivedi RS, Sreenivas K.1998. Delineation of salt-affected soils and waterlogged areas in the Indo-Gangetic plains using IRS-1C LISS-III data. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 14: 2739-2751.
[11] Gribov A, Krivoruchko K.2012. New flexible non-parametric data transformation for Trans-Gaussian Kriging. In: Abrahamsen P, Hauge R, Kolbjørnsen O. Geostatistics Oslo. Dordrecht: Springer, 51-65.
[12] IBM Corp. Released2015. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 23.0. Armonk: IBM Corp.
[13] Jia F Q, Tiyip T, Wu N, et al.2017. Characteristics of soil seed banks at different geomorphic positions within the longitudinal sand dunes of the Gurbantunggut Desert, China. Journal of Arid Land, 9(3): 355-367.
[14] Karchegani P M, Ayoubi S, Lu S G, et al.2011. Use of magnetic measures to assess soil redistribution following deforestation in hilly region. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 75(2): 227-236.
[15] Keshavarzi A, Tuffour H, Bagherzadeh A, et al.2018. Spatial and fractal characterization of soil properties across soil depth in an agricultural field, Northeast Iran. Eurasian Journal of Soil Science, 7(2): 93-102.
[16] Khaledian Y, Brevik E C, Pereira P, et al.2017a. Modeling soil cation exchange capacity in multiple countries. Catena, 158: 194-200.
[17] Khaledian Y, Kiani F, Ebrahimi S, et al.2017b. Assessment and monitoring of soil degradation during land use change using multivariate analysis. Land Degradation & Development, 28(1): 128-141.
[18] Khormali F, Ajami M, Ayoubi S, et al.2009. Role of deforestation and hillslope position on soil quality attributes of loess-derived soils in Golestan province, Iran. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 134(3-4): 178-189.
[19] Kravchenko A, Bullock D G.1999. A comparative study of interpolation methods for mapping soil properties. Agronomy Journal, 91(3): 393-400.
[20] Li J, Heap A D.2011. A review of comparative studies of spatial interpolation methods in environmental sciences: Performance and impact factors. Ecological Informatics, 6(3-4): 228-241.
[21] Li S S, Wang Q, Li L H.2016. Interdecadal variations of pan-evaporation at the southern and northern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains, China. Journal of Arid Land, 8(6): 832-845.
[22] Liao Y, Wu W L, Meng F Q, et al.2015. Increase in soil organic carbon by agricultural intensification in northern China. Biogeosciences, 12(5): 1403-1413.
[23] Malinowski E R.2002. Factor Analysis in Chemistry.New York:John Wiley and Sons Press, 1-432.
[24] Martínez-Hernández C, Rodrigo-Comino J, Romero-Díaz A.2017. Impact of lithology and soil properties on abandoned dryland terraces during the early stages of soil erosion by water in Southeast Spain. Hydrological Processes, 31(17): 3095-3109.
[25] Martínez-Murillo J F, Hueso-González P, Ruiz-Sinoga J D.2017. Topsoil moisture mapping using geostatistical techniques under different Mediterranean climatic conditions. Science of The Total Environment, 595: 400-412.
[26] Massart D L, Kaufman L.1983. The Interpretation of Analytical Chemical Data by the Use of Cluster Analysis. New York:John Wiley and Sons Press, 237.
[27] Mehnatkesh A, Ayoubi S, Jalalian A, et al.2013. Relationships between soil depth and terrain attributes in a semi arid hilly region in western Iran. Journal of Mountain Science, 10(1): 163-172.
[28] ASTER GDEM.2009. ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (ASTER GDEM) .[2009-06-29]. .
[29] Metternicht G I, Zinck J A, 2003. Remote sensing of soil salinity: potentials and constraints. Remote Sensing of Environment, 85: 1-20.
[30] Minasny B, McBratney A B.2006. A conditioned Latin hypercube method for sampling in the presence of ancillary information. Computers & geosciences, 32(9): 1378-1388.
[31] Morin J, Van Winkel J.1996. The effect of raindrop impact and sheet erosion on infiltration rate and crust formation. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 60(4): 1223-1227.
[32] Nelson D W, Sommers E L.1996. Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Sparks D L. Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 3, Chemical Methods. Madison: Soil Science Society of America Press, 961-1010.
[33] Olaya V.2004. A Gentle Introduction to SAGA GIS. Gottingen:The SAGA User Group Press, 1-216.
[34] Orgill S E, Condon J R, Conyers M K, et al.2017. Parent material and climate affect soil organic carbon fractions under pastures in south-eastern Australia. Soil Research, 55(8): 799-808.
[35] Ortíz-Rodríguez A J, Borselli L, Sarocchi D.2017. Flow connectivity in active volcanic areas: Use of index of connectivity in the assessment of lateral flow contribution to main streams. Catena, 157: 90-111.
[36] Page A L, Miller R H, Keeney D R.1982. Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2. Chemical and Microbiological Properties. Madison: American Society of Agronomy, 1-1159.
[37] Poeppl R E, Keesstra S D, Maroulis J.2017. A conceptual connectivity framework for understanding geomorphic change in human-impacted fluvial systems. Geomorphology, 277: 237-250.
[38] Ramos M C, Nacci S, Pla I.2000. Soil sealing and its influence on erosion rates for some soils in the Mediterranean area. Soil Science, 165(5): 398-403.
[39] Rodrigo-Comino J, Senciales J M, Cerdà A, et al.2018. The multidisciplinary origin of soil geography: A review. Earth-Science Reviews, 177: 114-123.
[40] Rosemary F, Indraratne S P, Weerasooriya R, et al.2017. Exploring the spatial variability of soil properties in an Alfisol soil catena. Catena, 150: 53-61.
[41] Ruggieri N, Castellano M, Capello M, et al.2011. Seasonal and spatial variability of water quality parameters in the Port of Genoa, Italy, from 2000 to 2007. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62(2): 340-349.
[42] Sağir Ç, Kurtuluş B.2017. Hydraulic head and groundwater 111Cd content interpolations using empirical Bayesian kriging (EBK) and geo-adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system (geo-ANFIS). Water SA, 43(3): 509-519.
[43] Samsonova V P, Blagoveshchenskii Y N, Meshalkina Y L.2017. Use of empirical Bayesian kriging for revealing heterogeneities in the distribution of organic carbon on agricultural lands. Eurasian Soil Science, 50(3): 305-311.
[44] Schjønning P, Munkholm L J, Elmholt S, et al.2007. Organic matter and soil tilth in arable farming: Management makes a difference within 5-6 years. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 122(2): 157-172.
[45] Shiri J, Keshavarzi A, Kisi O, et al.2017. Modeling soil cation exchange capacity using soil parameters: Assessing the heuristic models. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 135: 242-251.
[46] Shukla M K, Lal R, Ebinger M.2006. Determining soil quality indicators by factor analysis. Soil and Tillage Research, 87(2): 194-204.
[47] Singer M J, Shainberg I.2004. Mineral soil surface crusts and wind and water erosion. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 29(9): 1065-1075.
[48] Soil Survey Staff.2014. Keys to Soil Taxonomy (12th ed.). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1-360.
[49] Stavi I, Ungar E D, Lavee H, et al.2008. Grazing-induced spatial variability of soil bulk density and content of moisture, organic carbon and calcium carbonate in a semi-arid rangeland. Catena, 75(3): 288-296.
[50] Sulieman M, Saeed, I, Hassaballa A, et al.2018. Modeling cation exchange capacity in multi geochronological-derived alluvium soils: An approach based on soil depth intervals. Catena, 167: 327-339.
[51] Sun W Y, Zhu H H, Guo S L.2015. Soil organic carbon as a function of land use and topography on the Loess Plateau of China. Ecological Engineering, 83: 249-257.
[52] Taghizadeh-Mehrjardi R, Nabiollahi K, Kerry R.2016. Digital mapping of soil organic carbon at multiple depths using different data mining techniques in Baneh region, Iran. Geoderma, 266: 98-110.
[53] Tajik S, Ayoubi S, Nourbakhsh F, 2012. Prediction of soil enzymes activity by digital terrain analysis: comparing artificial neural network and multiple linear regression models. Environmental Engineering Science, 29(8): 798-806.
[54] Tran C P, Bode R W, Smith A J, et al.2010. Land-use proximity as a basis for assessing stream water quality in New York State (USA). Ecological Indicators, 10(3): 727-733.
[55] U.S. Geological Survey.2004. EarthExplorer Help Index: EarthExplorer Tutorial.
[56] Wang C, Zhao C Y, Xu Z L, et al.2013. Effect of vegetation on soil water retention and storage in a semi-arid alpine forest catchment. Journal of Arid Land, 5(2): 207-219.
[57] Wang J Q, Liu L C, Qiu X Q, et al.2016. Contents of soil organic carbon and nitrogen in water-stable aggregates in abandoned agricultural lands in an arid ecosystem of Northwest China. Journal of Arid Land, 8(3): 350-363.
[58] Wilford J, De Caritat P, Bui E.2015. Modelling the abundance of soil calcium carbonate across Australia using geochemical survey data and environmental predictors. Geoderma, 259-260: 81-92.
[59] Zeraatpishe M, Khormali F.2012. Carbon stock and mineral factors controlling soil organic carbon in a climatic gradient, Golestan province. Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, 12(4): 637-654.
[60] Zeraatpisheh M, Ayoubi S, Jafari A, et al.2017. Comparing the efficiency of digital and conventional soil mapping to predict soil types in a semi-arid region in Iran. Geomorphology, 285: 186-204.
[61] Zeraatpisheh M, Ayoubi S, Brungard C W, et al.2019. Disaggregating and updating a legacy soil map using DSMART, fuzzy c-means and k-means clustering algorithms in Central Iran. Geoderma, 340: 249-258.
[1] YANG Jingyi, LUO Weicheng, ZHAO Wenzhi, LIU Jiliang, WANG Dejin, LI Guang. Soil seed bank is affected by transferred soil thickness and properties in the reclaimed coal mine in the Qilian Mountains, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(12): 1529-1543.
[2] ZHANG Zhenchao, LIU Miao, SUN Jian, WEI Tianxing. Degradation leads to dramatic decrease in topsoil but not subsoil root biomass in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 806-818.
[3] Mingming GUO, Wenlong WANG, Hongliang KANG, Bo YANG. Changes in soil properties and erodibility of gully heads induced by vegetation restoration on the Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(5): 712-725.
[4] Xu BI, Bo LI, Bo NAN, Yao FAN, Qi FU, Xinshi ZHANG. Characteristics of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen under various grassland types along a transect in a mountain-basin system in Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(4): 612-627.
[5] Yang YU, Xi CHEN, HUTTNER Philipp, HINNENTHAL Marie, BRIEDEN Andreas, Lingxiao SUN, DISSE Markus. Model based decision support system for land use changes and socio-economic assessments[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(2): 169-182.
[6] ZHANG Ke, SU Yongzhong, WANG Ting, LIU Tingna. Soil properties and herbaceous characteristics in an age sequence of Haloxylon ammodendron plantations in an oasis-desert ecotone of northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(6): 960-973.
[7] Naima KOULL, Abdelmadjid CHEHMA. Soil characteristics and plant distribution in saline wetlands of Oued Righ, northeastern Algerian Sahara[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(6): 948-959.
[8] WEN Bin, ZHANG Xiaolei, YANG Zhaoping, XIONG Heigang, QIU Yang. Influence of tourist disturbance on soil properties, plant communities, and surface water quality in the Tianchi scenic area of Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(2): 304-313.
[9] Alisher MIRZABAEV, Mohamed AHMED, Jutta WERNER, John PENDER, Mounir LOUHAICHI. Rangelands of Central Asia: challenges and opportunities[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(1): 93-108.
[10] Hui AN, GuoQi LI. Effects of grazing on carbon and nitrogen in plants and soils in a semiarid desert grassland, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 341-349.
[11] Li DAI, YiXing FENG, GePing LUO, YanZhong LI2, WenQiang XU. The relationship between soil, climate and forest development in the mid-mountain zone of the Sangong River watershed in the northern Tianshan Mountains, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 63-72.
[12] Chao WANG, ChuanYan ZHAO, ZhongLin XU, Yang WANG, HuanHua PENG. Effect of vegetation on soil water retention and storage in a semi-arid alpine forest catchment[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(2): 207-219.
[13] JunHong ZHANG, Bo WU, YongHua LI, WenBin YANG, YaKai LEI, HaiYan HAN, Ji HE. Biological soil crust distribution in Artemisia ordosica communities along a grazing pressure gradient in Mu Us Sandy Land, Northern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(2): 172-179.
[14] Wei SHI, BoRong PAN, Habibullo SHOMURODOV. Correlation of soil properties and fruit size of Callgonum mongolicum and related species[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(1): 63-70.